Kurdistan Mission Report
In the first fieldwork season, the Hungarian-Kurdish archaeological expedition mapped an important place of the Kurdish history, the castle of Dvin and its surroundings in northern Iraq, and carried out the full 3D scanning of the fortification as well.
The five-year research program, implemented in the cooperation of the Pázmány Péter Catholic University (PPKE) and the University of Erbil Saladin, and is supported by the MOL Group. The project is managed on the Hungarian side by Balázs Major, associate professor, head of Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Humanities, PPKE, and on the Kurdish side by Zidan Bradoszti, head of Department of Archaeology at the University of Saladin.
As the Major Balázs told the MTI, the territory of the Erbil province is situated at the intersection of several large Middle Eastern civilizations. “It belongs to one of the most important cradle of the history, the Fertile Crescent area, so the research carried out there has always been surrounded by high international attention.”
According to his description, it is a countryside divided by harsh but scenic mountain chains, and only the capital city of Erbil is situated on the edge of the Mesopotamian plain. The Kurds, who have lived in this inhospitable landscape, controlled the through traffic mostly from their fortification in the mountains throughout their history. “These castles are perhaps the most important group of remains of the medieval and early modern Kurdistan that are almost completely unexplored, and consequently, they embody significant new knowledge” – said the Hungarian archaeologist.
Few resources are available on the picturesque castle of Dvin, located on a ridge 60 kilometres north-east of Erbil, therefore it is very important that for the first time in the history an archaeological research is carried out. According to the former assumptions, the majority of the buildings seen today was built in the 15-16th century, but according to the first research, it is very likely that the fortifications have parts that could be related to earlier periods as well.
“The Directorate General of Archaeology of the Kurdistan Regional Government requested from us a complete research and documentation of the fortification and its vicinity. This is not merely an archaeological research, the project is an excellent opportunity for educational cooperation with the most prestigious university in Kurdistan. Hungarian students may gain practice in Iraqi Kurdistan, and Kurdish students may participate in the excavations by the Department and other training programs in Hungary. Our plans include joint conferences and educational exchanges as well, we can learn much from each other“, – Balázs Major stressed.
The concession contract was concluded in November after long preparation and field trips, and then the research began immediately. During the first season completed now, besides archaeological field exploration yielding new excavation sites, architectural surveys were also conducted, and the experts of the Mensor3D carried out the full three-dimensional scanning of the castle and the castle hill, as well as aerial photography and geophysical surveys were carried out. “A huge data set was created, and it is very likely that we will soon be able the carry out the primary periodization, so we can determine that the castle was built in what stages. These explorations are complemented by the archaeological excavations beginning in 2015″- the expert discussed the project.
The excavation will provide answers to what size actually may have been the fortress, in which civilian population also is supposed to have lived in addition to the defenders, and which provided shelter for the people of the surrounding villages at least in case of emergency.
“Part of the area is covered with debris, but there might be buildings all over the gently sloping hill areas. It is difficult to determine what was the extent of the early castle, which town how was connected to the fortress – said Balázs Major, who mentioned the huge building complex towering on the rock plateau opposite to the castle and the cemetery as an example.
“It seems that it is a roughly coherent building complex. The cemetery, which is one of the main attractions of the vicinity of the castle with its beautifully carved tombs, however can be only up to several centuries old. It had not been customary that Muslim cemetery was located in an inner area of the town, and the fact that it is found among the ruins, shows that the building complex had been abandoned long before the burials were started here”- the archaeologist explained.